Scrumptious and incredibly versatile shrimp make a delightful addition to many dishes. We'll key you in on everything you need to know about cooking shrimp, including how long to cook shrimp without overdoing it—not much is worse than rubbery overcooked shrimp. Plus, we'll share a few of our favorite shrimp recipes so you can start putting your new skills to use in the kitchen.

By Sheena Chihak
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Shrimp make their way into all kinds of cuisine because their delicate flavor and tender meat make every recipe seem special. But they are such a fast-cooking ingredient that it's a snap to add shrimp to just about anything. Whether you need to know how to cook frozen shrimp (just thaw it first—more on that below) or you're cooking raw shrimp, we'll walk you through how to cook shrimp and even how to peel and devein it.

How to Peel and Devein Shrimp

We are spoiled by convenience. Most of us can easily find peeled and deveined shrimp at our grocery stores. But if you can't, or you want the full shrimp cooking experience, here's how to peel shrimp and get rid of that icky-tasting (really, you don't want to eat this) vein. If you already purchased peeled and deveined shrimp, skip this section and get straight to cooking shrimp, below.

Left: Peeling shrimp and cutting a slit to expose the vein
Right: Peeling shrimp and cutting a slit to expose the vein

How to Peel Shrimp

Most shrimp recipes call for peeled shrimp. Here's how to do it:

  • Open the shell lengthwise down the body on its belly side (the inside curve).
  • Starting at the head end, peel back the shell. Gently pull on the tail to remove it or, if you prefer, leave the tail intact for a more upscale presentation.
Using a knife to remove the vein of the shrimp

How to Devein Shrimp

  • Use a sharp knife to make a shallow slit along the back of the shrimp from the head to the tail end to reveal the black vein.
  • Using the tip of the knife, locate the vein.
  • Place the tip of the knife under the vein and lift it out.
  • Rinse the shrimp under cold running water.

Tip: The vein is actually the intestinal tract and can impart an unpleasant taste if left in the shrimp.

How to Cook Shrimp in the Oven

Part of the reason we love shrimp recipes is because they cook so fast. When it comes to cooking shrimp in the oven, we opt to broil. Many baked shrimp recipes start by first boiling shrimp (or using precooked shrimp) then baking as part of a dish like this Baked Shrimp Curry. But broiling shrimp will cook shrimp faster than baking. Here's how to broil shrimp:

  • Adjust the oven rack to 4 to 5 inches from the heat
  • Place 1 to 1½ pounds shrimp, seasoned or marinated as desired, in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  • Broil 2 to 3 minutes (told you it was fast!) until opaque.

How to Cook Shrimp on the Stove

There are a couple of methods for cooking shrimp on the stove; each of them will get your seafood on the table in a flash. 

How to Boil Shrimp

  • For 1 pound shrimp, in a 3-quart saucepan bring 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt to boiling.
  • Add shrimp.
  • Simmer, uncovered, 1 to 3 minutes or until shrimp turn opaque, stirring occasionally.
  • Drain and rinse shrimp in a colander under cold running water. If desired, chill shrimp.

How to Cook Shrimp in a Skillet (aka How to Sauté Shrimp)

  • Heat skillet over medium-high.
  • Add butter or oil.
  • Add 8 ounces to 2 pounds seasoned or marinated shrimp to skillet.
  • Cook 3 to 6 minutes until shrimp are opaque.

How to Grill Shrimp

A skewer of grilled shrimp is one of our favorite summertime cookout treats, not to mention a favorite way to cook shrimp. After peeling and deveining, season or marinate shrimp as desired, then follow these instructions for grilling shrimp as kabobs:

  • For direct grilling: Grill shrimp, covered, over medium as long as directed below based on their size, or until opaque:
    • extra-jumbo shrimp (20 per pound) for 5 to 8 minutes 
    • colossal shrimp (12 to 15 per pound) for 7 to 9 minutes
  • For indirect grilling: Grill shrimp, covered, over medium as long as directed below based on their size, or until opaque: 
    • extra-jumbo shrimp (20 per pound) for 8 to 10 minutes 
    • colossal shrimp (12 to 15 per pound) for 9 to 11 minutes
  • Check for a pink color on the outside. Cut into a skewered shrimp to make sure the flesh is opaque throughout.

How to Buy Shrimp

There's a little bit of extra know-how needed when shopping for shrimp. Use these pointers when buying shrimp:

  • Purchase 1½ pounds raw shrimp for each pound of shelled shrimp you need.
    • Generally, 12 ounces raw shrimp in shells equals 8 ounces raw shelled shrimp or 1 cup cooked shelled shrimp.
  • The price of shrimp usually depends on the size of the shrimp purchased. The bigger the shrimp, the higher the price and the fewer per pound.
  • Look for firm, juicy shrimp with translucent, moist shells and without black spots (unless you are purchasing black tiger shrimp).
  • Be sure the shrimp have a fresh, sealike scent. An ammonia odor indicates spoilage.
  • Avoid shrimp with yellowish shells or dry spots, which could indicate freezer burn.
  • The number of shrimp per pound increases as their size decreases. For instance, 16/20 shrimp are considered extra-jumbo, meaning there are 16 to 20 shrimp per pound. With medium shrimp, you'll get 41 to 50 shrimp per pound. See our guide to shrimp sizes below so you know the shrimp count per pound.

How to Store Shrimp

As with most seafoods and meats, store fresh shrimp in the original packaging or in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 2 days. Keep frozen shrimp in the freezer up to 6 months.

How to Thaw Frozen Shrimp

Because shrimp are bought and sold in large quantities, most of the shrimp available in U.S. supermarkets have been previously frozen. Shrimp freeze remarkably well. If the shrimp you purchase are frozen, place them in a sealed container in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. One pound will thaw in 1 to 2 days.

To speed up the thawing process, place shrimp in a resealable plastic bag and immerse in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes to be sure it stays cold, To retain their succulent texture, avoid thawing shrimp in warm water or at room temperature. When you're learning how to cook frozen shrimp, you can follow the same instructions for grilling, boiling, and skillet-cooking, as long as you thaw the shrimp before cooking.

Guide to Shrimp Size

Use this list as a reference for market names and the number of shrimp per pound to better understand shrimp sizing:

  • Colossal: Fewer than 15 shrimp per pound
  • Extra-Jumbo: 16 to 20 per pound
  • Jumbo: 21 to 25 per pound
  • Extra-Large: 26 to 30 per pound
  • Large: 31 to 35 per pound
  • Medium: 41 to 50 per pound
  • Small: 51 to 60 per pound
  • Extra-Small: 61 to 70 per pound

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